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I'm looking at needing to acquire personal health insurance in the next few months as I move from a job with good benefits to self-employment, and I've found that it's pretty difficult to compare the quality of the various plans out there.

A friend of mine has had a terrible experience with a major company (Aetna), so I'm somewhat sensitized to the risks. However, when I try to Google for information or reviews, I get nothing but internet marketing spam/sales pages, so that's been worse than useless.

How can I find honest information about my options? Is asking around for personal experiences/trial and error the only way?

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I was in your situation a few years ago and I discovered something that worked perfectly for me - a local health insurance broker. I met with her, discussed my needs, reviewed the options with her, then acted. She received a commission from the insurer, so it cost me nothing. I would certainly follow a similar approach again.

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    My wife does this job, and her company gives advice. Make sure you shop the brokerage. Some target high end folks, others target various stages in life or small businesses. Expertise from a broker can vary wildly. – MrChrister Jul 25 '11 at 19:26
  • Thanks, I'll have to look into brokers to see what they can tell me. – Michael C. O'Connor Jul 25 '11 at 19:47
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Here's an old-ish article from the NYT that discusses this.

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Health insurance is tough, as you know, because the offerings vary dramatically by State, and there is the added complication of the Affordable Care Act, which depending on where and who you are has had either a good or bad impact on the available options.

If you are a sole proprietor or other business person, I'd advise talking to someone at a local chamber of commerce. Also, professional organizations like the IEEE or ACM (for IT professionals) often offer catastrophic medical or other health plans.

Some employer plans give you the option to continue coverage at a higher cost when COBRA lapses as well.

If you can't afford a comprehensive plan, make sure to get something to protect you against pre-existing conditions or hospitalization.

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